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If conservatives are furious about the Taliban prisoner exchange that freed Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, the members of Team Bush are absolutely frothing at the mouth. Writing in the Washington Post, former Bush speechwriters Michael Gerson and Marc Thiessen suggested that at best, President Obama does not have the attitude that "we will fight you as long as you fight us" and, at worst, "is surrendering to the Taliban." Echoing the demands of the likes of Allen West and Fox News regular Jeanine Pirro that Obama be impeached, President Bush's last Attorney General Michael Mukasey declared that the "wholesale release of dangerous people" would merit removal from office.

While not surprising from people who have been advocating the impeachment of Barack Obama for five years, the statements are nevertheless more than a little ironic. After all, under President Bush more than 500 detainees were released from Guantanamo Bay. And when the Supreme Court upheld the habeas corpus rights of the U.S prisoners there in June 2008, the Bush administration and its Republican allies issued dire warnings about the "Gitmo 30" who had already returned "to the kill."

The Gitmo 30 sound bite dates back to the summer of 2007, when the Pentagon released its own study to counter an analysis by Seton Hall professor Mark Denbeaux which questioned the intelligence value of Al Qaeda and Taliban personnel held by the U.S. The New York Times said the DoD assessment "paints a chilling portrait of the detainees," and quoted Pentagon spokesman Jeffrey Gorden on one of its key findings:

"Our reports indicate that at least 30 former Guantanamo detainees have taken part in anti-coalition militant activities after leaving U.S. detention," he said. "Some have been killed in combat in Afghanistan and Pakistan."
Please read below the fold for more on this story.

That figure quickly became a staple among Republicans in the debate over Guantanamo Bay and the status of the detainees in the wake of the Court's Hamdan decision and the subsequent passage of the Military Commissions Act of 2006 in response to it. With the Senate Judiciary Committee now in Democratic hands, GOP Senators Kyl, Sessions, Graham, Cornyn, and Coburn prominently featured the 30 released detainees in their minority report arguing against the failed Habeas Corpus Restoration Act of 2007:

"At least 30 detainees who have been released from the Guantanamo Bay detention facility have since returned to waging war against the United States and its allies. A dozen released detainees have been killed in battle by U.S. forces, while others have been recaptured."
(It is worth noting, as the Committee's majority report did, that all detainees released from Guantanamo Bay were released not by civilian courts, but by the military's own tribunals and commissions. "Indeed," the report highlighted, "those Guantanamo detainees who have been released since 9/11—discussed at length by critics of this legislation—have been freed by the military following its own process, not by federal judges on habeas review."

Nevertheless, Justice Antonin Scalia in his scathing dissent in the 2008 Boumediene habeas corpus case faithfully reproduced the GOP's Gitmo 30 talking point:

"In the short term, however, the decision is devastating. At least 30 of those prisoners hitherto released from Guantanamo Bay have returned to the battlefield. See S. Rep. No. 110-90, pt. 7, p. 13 (2007) (Minority Views of Sens. Kyl, Sessions, Graham, Cornyn, and Coburn) (hereinafter Minority Report)...These, mind you, were detainees whom the military had concluded were not enemy combatants. Their return to the kill illustrates the incredible difficulty of assessing who is and who is not an enemy combatant in a foreign theater of operations where the environment does not lend itself to rigorous evidence collection."
The decision, Scalia warned, "will almost certainly cause more Americans to be killed." He added, "The Nation will live to regret what the court has done today."

John Yoo, one of the architects of President Bush's regime of detainee torture, parroted that view. In Yoo's mind, if the Taliban and Al Qaeda prisoners have no legal protection against torture short of "organ failure, impairment of bodily function, or even death," they certainly have no habeas rights, either. Again, the Gitmo 30 explains why:

"Just as there is always the chance of a mistaken detention, there is also the probability that we will release the wrong man. As Justice Antonin Scalia's dissenting opinion notes, at least 30 detainees released from Guantanamo Bay -- with the military, not the courts, making the call -- have returned to Afghanistan and Iraq battlefields."

John McCain, the 2008 Republican presidential nominee, wholeheartedly agreed. As McCain, who called the Boumediene ruling "one of the worst decisions in the history of this country," put it:

"30 of the people who have already been released from Guantanamo Bay have already tried to attack America again."
If what John McCain, Lindsey Graham, John Yoo, Antonin Scalia and virtually the entire right-wing echo chamber said were true, then by their own criteria President George W. Bush should have been impeached. After all, under Bush some 500 detainees were released in exchange for nothing. And according to their own talking points, substantial numbers of these Gitmo graduates returned to the fight against the United States. As Mukasey, who like many legal scholars defended Commander-in-Chief Obama's legal authority to exchange prisoners during wartime, explained his own impeachment test:
"Whether you impeach somebody doesn't depend on whether they violate the law," Mukasey said. "The president can stay within his lawful powers and still commit an impeachable offense. He can pardon anybody he wants. If he decided tomorrow to pardon everybody in the U.S. prison system, that would be lawful, but it would raise serious questions about whether he should continue in office. The same is true of the wholesale release of dangerous people."
By that standard, President Bush should have some serious explaining to do. As ThinkProgress recently documented:
Statistics from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence show that only 6 percent (5 in total) of Guantanamo detainees released during the Obama administration have been assessed to have potentially engaged in militant activities. That compares with a rate of nearly 30 percent under the Bush administration. While these statistics have been criticized as including activities that no one should consider threatening the security of the United States, such as writing op-eds critical of U.S. policy, no one is arguing that they are undercounting those detainees who potentially have committed violent acts upon release.
In fact, the reverse is that case. In 2008, Seton Hall's Denbeaux released a new report ("Justice Scalia, the Department of Defense, and the Perpetuation of an Urban Legend") that put the final nail in the coffin of the right-wing's Gitmo 30 fraud. "At most 12, not 30, detainees 'returned to the fight,'" the report concluded, adding "Of these 12, it is by no means clear that all are properly characterized as having been so engaged since their release." The press release accompanying the June 17 study noted, "The '30' number, however, was corrected in a DoD press release issued in July 2007, and a DoD document submitted to the House Foreign Relations Committee on May 20, 2008, abandons the claim entirely." That House hearing occurred two weeks before Scalia published his stinging Boumediene dissent. That same month, McClatchy completed its own 8 month investigation, one which largely supported Denbeaux' findings. (Recently, CNN's Peter Bergen similarly put all of the government's recidivism claims into doubt, suggesting a figure of 8 to 9 percent would be more accurate.)

All of which means that what conservatives claimed about the Gitmo 30 wasn't true. But if they believe what they're saying about President Obama now, the former Bushies and their right-wing amen corner should have demanded President Bush's impeachment then.

Originally posted to Jon Perr on Tue Jun 10, 2014 at 03:10 PM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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Comment Preferences

  •  what a bunch of pants-pissers (0+ / 0-)

    30 guys went back to the battle, out of 500? I'm surprised it wasn't more, after the way they were tortured and held without any trial or respect for the Geneva Conventions.

    Maybe some wingnut could make a movie, like 300, only call it 30. They think these guys are some kind of super-heroes or something, or else they have absolutely no respect for the multi-trillion-dollar military boondoggle that they have created. And profited from.

    This Rover crossed over.. Willie Nelson, written by Dorothy Fields

    by Karl Rover on Tue Jun 10, 2014 at 03:21:50 PM PDT

    •  The recidivism rate was so low because most of (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Jeff Y, RightHeaded, kurt

      them weren't Al Queda to begin with.  Most were people who just happened to be in the area when there was an attack on American soldiers and didn't speak English so they couldn't defend themselves or they were people whom someone in Afghanistan had a feud with and figured the easiest way to screw them was to tell the Americans they were terrorists.

      And of course, there was probably a quota system to get enough people that W could claim he was capturing lots of terrorists.

      That's the reason the military tribunals released them after they'd been held long enough to serve W's political interests.

  •  Gitmo is an example. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Kingsmeg

    Is serves to let Americans know what could happen to them, if they step out of line. Examples are important as a deterrent. Of course, only good people are deterred from doing something bad.
    Threatening good people is both safe and effective. That's why they do it. Innocent people get attacked because bad people are cowards.

    http://hannah.smith-family.com

    by hannah on Tue Jun 10, 2014 at 03:59:31 PM PDT

    •  ...an example that should be used (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      kurt

      Imagine the shock if we shipped some domestic terrorists there? Imagine if violent right-wing nutters were treated exactly the same way as Al-Qai’da.

      I’m speaking hypothetically, of course.
      .

      “The meaning of life is to find it.”

      by ArcticStones on Thu Jun 12, 2014 at 04:11:24 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Dear Mr Perr, thank you for an inciteful and (0+ / 0-)

    excellent article. You mention in your final paragraph that if the former Bushies applied the criteria they are now hurling at Pres Obama, then Dubya should have been impeached. It saddens me to know that this will not happen. Money talks too loudly in this country. And its partner in crime is rampant hypocrisy. The two of them form an impenetrable wall that seems from here will never be breached. Until the USA is willing to acknowledge and pay for its transgressions little is going to change in this world. I do not see that happening any time soon. What we have to fall back on is grass roots action. Hope it's not too late for that!

  •  screw impeachment, War Crimes Trial at the Hague (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    StillAmused

    more sad is the use of "Art Therapy" to rehabilitate a couple of them

    Warning - some snark may be above‽ (-9.50; -7.03)‽ eState4Column5©2013 "If we appear to seek the unattainable, then let it be known that we do so to avoid the unimaginable." (@eState4Column5)

    by annieli on Wed Jun 11, 2014 at 07:03:11 PM PDT

    •  If you mean Dubya's "paintings"... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      rini6

      they may be theraputic for GWB, but they ain't "art"  by ANY stretch of the imagination!

      America's LAST HOPE: vote the GOP OUT in 2014 elections. MAKE them LOSE the House Majority and reduce their numbers in the Senate. Democrats move America forward - Republicans take us backward and are KILLING OUR NATION!

      by dagnome on Wed Jun 11, 2014 at 07:26:55 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I attended Seton Hall Law School. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Angie in WA State

    I'd love to know when Mark Denbeaux went from being a joke to an authority on the treatment of detainees.  

    If you get confused, listen to the music play - R. Hunter

    by SpamNunn on Wed Jun 11, 2014 at 07:09:06 PM PDT

  •  Sigh... if people were better informed (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Angie in WA State

    the GOP would not be able to  get away with this blatant hypocrisy. It's so bold and so crude it's unfathomable. They get away with it because the double standard they hold is almost unbelievable.

    An eye for an eye and the whole world will be blind.

    by rini6 on Wed Jun 11, 2014 at 07:20:44 PM PDT

  •  30 People Cannot "Attack America." (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Angie in WA State

    They can attack some vehicles and buildings, like 9/11.

    Not "America."

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Wed Jun 11, 2014 at 07:21:02 PM PDT

  •  This isn't a brain thing, this is a gut thing (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Pinko Elephant, 88kathy, StillAmused

    Facts, history - none of that matters when the Republicans are busy whipping up a mob frenzy.

    "No special skill, no standard attitude, no technology, and no organization - no matter how valuable - can safely replace thought itself."

    by xaxnar on Wed Jun 11, 2014 at 07:28:53 PM PDT

  •  IOKIYAR is the guiding "principle". n/t (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Greenfinches
  •  Tip'd, Rec'd & Tweeted (0+ / 0-)

    Sorry, changed ur title a wee bit...


    "I like paying taxes...with them, I buy Civilization"

    by Angie in WA State on Wed Jun 11, 2014 at 07:37:01 PM PDT

  •  W released 542 Gitmo detainees, and silence... n/t (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    StillAmused

    "Really nice, but also very serious about his job." Jackie Evancho on President Obama 6/7/12

    by BarackStarObama on Wed Jun 11, 2014 at 07:52:33 PM PDT

  •  Great read! (0+ / 0-)

    I think you make a much needed point.

    But, this does go against the case of That Was Then v This Is Now.

  •  The only place ... (5+ / 0-)

    ... where you'll find "consistent" and "conservative" anywhere near each other is in a dictionary.

    Patriotism is the FIRST refuge of the scoundrel.

    by Tony Seybert on Wed Jun 11, 2014 at 08:24:23 PM PDT

  •  30 returned to the battlefield? (0+ / 0-)

    Who the hell says so?  I don't believe anything they tell us about these detainees.  It is all about propaganda.  They tell us what they want us to believe. There can never be any satisfactory proof that would convince me that anything they say is trustworthy.  Reports are less than useless.

  •  The Topper (0+ / 0-)

    *

    The worst part about America being fucked up is that it's been fucked up for so long no one even notices anymore.

    FREE AMERICA

    DIRECT DEMOCRACY

  •  Track Them (0+ / 0-)

    The Pentagon should track every single released prisoner to see whether they lead the Pentagon to some enemies to kill or capture. The Pentagon is scanning every American's phone/email/etc privacy in the name of just that kind of necessary security. The least we could get from constant violation of our rights would be using it on actual risks to our country from actual people.

    Of course, if we'd spent the past dozen years treating these prisoners well, even if we'd kidnapped them for no good reason and left them in prison without charges, we might have gotten some of them to go find some enemies to join while secretly working for us.

    I'm just some guy on the Internet. The Pentagon, Congress, a series of White House staff - they must realize that common sense strategy. Why don't they just do their job, for the $1.5 TRILLION a year we've been paying them to do so ever since they let us get attacked in 2001?

    "When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro." - HST

    by DocGonzo on Thu Jun 12, 2014 at 07:38:52 AM PDT

  •  The almost childlike 'reasoning' of (0+ / 0-)

    right-wing chickenhawks (and an unfortunately large number of Americans) is mind-numbing. The notion that we could go stomping around an entire region — oblivious to its history, cultures and religions — and expect those vast populations to behave cooperatively, like game pieces on our own personal game board, is more appropriate to a kindergarten playground than it is to a purportedly mature nation.

    Indiscriminately round up 'insurgents', many literally sold to us for bounty by local warlords, imprison them without due process for more than a decade, then expect them to 'go to their rooms and behave'?

    How did so many cases of arrested development sneak into our elected government while we weren't paying attention?

    ... and why weren't we paying attention?

    The conga-line of PNAC war criminals, led by Dick Cheney, that formed behind Junior — their useful idiot — and succeeded in lighting up an already unstable Middle East have condemned us to endless decades of conflicts that can't be resolved, 'wars' that can't be won and the droning, empty prattle of intellectually-challenged ideologues who don't even understand their own 'ideology'.

    We're in the deep shit, and it won't get better any time soon.

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